America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 47-48.

 

Tidyman, Ernest.  High Plains Drifter.  New York: Bantam, 1973.

An award-winning screenwriter, Ernest Tidyman won an Academy Award, and Edgar Award, and a Writers Guild of America Award for the screenplay of The French Connection.  He also wrote the screenplays for the film adaptations of the series of novels that he wrote about the cool Harlem detective John Shaft.  He also wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of his Western novel High Plains Drifter.  Starring Clint Eastwood, the film brought the “spaghetti Western” into the cinematic mainstream and synthesized elements of the Gothic tale with the conventions of the traditional Western.

In High Plains Drifter, a mysterious stranger rides into a remote Western town and sets the whole place on edge.  Catered to by some of the townspeople who immediately recognize the palpable sense of danger that lies just underneath his laconic persona, he deals violently with anyone who tries to prevent him from taking whatever he wants from the town, including its women.  There are flashbacks suggesting that the Drifter may be the revenge-seeking reincarnation of a lawman lynched by outlaws or possibly even the restless ghost of the man.  When news comes that the outlaws may be headed to the town, the Drifter orders the townspeople to prepare for their arrival by painting every building in the town a bright red.  Then he rides off, seemingly abandoning the town to the predations of the outlaws.  But, as the town begins to burn hellishly in the middle of the night, the Drifter returns and stealthily eliminates the outlaws, one after another.  When daylight comes, much of the town is little more than smoldering ruins, and the Drifter rides off into the heat waves until he appears to be a mirage.

 

Wellman, Paul I.  The Comancheros.  Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1952.

Although Paul I. Wellman spent an extended portion of his childhood with his missionary parents in West Africa, he was a native Oklahoman and later lived near an Indian reservation.  As an adolescent, he worked as a ranch hand and got a firsthand impression of what the great cattle drives must have been like.  When he later began to write fiction and nonfiction about the opening of the West, he drew on his own formative experiences to lend a great immediacy to the places and events that he was describing.

The eighth of Wellman’s fourteen novels, The Comercheros may not be his most acclaimed work–other candidates for that distinction are Angels with Spurs (1942), The Iron Mistress (1951), and Magnificent Destiny (1962)—but it may be his most representative work.  Adapted to film in 1961, the novel focuses on a New Orleans gambler and womanizer who has to flee the city after killing an outraged husband in a duel.  He ultimately joins the Texas Rangers and becomes involved in the effort to force the last of the Comanches in west Texas onto reservations.  The novel demonstrates the often fluid distinction between law enforcement and lawlessness on the frontier.  It also links the protagonist’s reformation with his romantic obsession with a mysterious woman, ultimately illustrating the role of women and family life in the establishment of settled and lawful communities.

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Previous Posts in This Series:

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 1-2: https://academeblog.org/2014/09/10/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-1-2/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 3-5: https://academeblog.org/2014/09/16/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-3-5/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 6-8: https://academeblog.org/2014/09/20/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-6-8/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 9-11: https://academeblog.org/2014/10/04/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-9-11/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 12-14: https://academeblog.org/2014/10/12/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-12-14/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 15-17: https://academeblog.org/2014/10/21/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-15-17/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 18-20: https://academeblog.org/2014/11/02/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-18-20/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 21-23: https://academeblog.org/2014/11/09/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-21-23/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 24-26: https://academeblog.org/2014/11/23/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-24-26/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 27-29: https://academeblog.org/2014/12/25/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-27-29/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 30-32: https://academeblog.org/2015/01/19/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-30-32/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 33-35: https://academeblog.org/2015/02/05/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-33-35/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 36-38: https://academeblog.org/2015/03/10/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-36-37/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 39-40: https://academeblog.org/2015/03/21/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-39-40/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 41-42: https://academeblog.org/2015/04/05/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-41-42/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 41-42: https://academeblog.org/2015/05/08/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-43-44/

America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 41-42: https://academeblog.org/2015/05/17/america-re-imagined-in-retrospect-fifty-notable-american-novels-about-the-west-45-46/

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Posts in the Previous Series:

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 1-3: https://academeblog.org/2014/05/30/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-1-3/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 4-5: https://academeblog.org/2014/05/31/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-4-5/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 6-7: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/01/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-6-7/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 8-10: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/04/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-8-10/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 11-13: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/06/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-11-13/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 14-16: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/11/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-14-16/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 17-19: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/18/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-17-19/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 20-22: https://academeblog.org/2014/06/25/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-20-22/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 23-25: https://academeblog.org/2014/07/07/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-23-25/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 26-29: https://academeblog.org/2014/07/11/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-26-29/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 30-32: https://academeblog.org/2014/07/23/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-30-32/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 33: https://academeblog.org/2014/07/29/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-33/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 34-36: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/10/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-34-36/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 37-39: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/15/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-37-39/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 40-42: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/21/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-40-42/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 43-45: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/23/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-43-45/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 46-48: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/26/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-46-48/

National (In-)Security: Fifty Notable American Espionage Novels: 49-50: https://academeblog.org/2014/08/30/national-in-security-fifty-notable-american-espionage-novels-49-50/

 

3 thoughts on “America Re-Imagined, in Retrospect: Fifty Notable American Novels about the “West”: 47-48.

  1. Pingback: The Academe Blog

  2. I am an Italian fan of western novels. I’ve read most of them that you listed in your post.I’d like to adjoin some other title:
    Harry Brown, The Stars in their Courses
    Benjamin Capps, A Woman of the People
    John Cunningham, Warhorse
    Thomas Eidson, The Last Ride (aka The Missing)
    Clair Huffaker, The Cow Boy and the Cossack
    Tom Lea, The Wonderful Country
    Alan LeMay, The Searchers
    T.C. Lewellen, The Ruthless Gun (a little unknown masterpiece)
    John Prebble, The Buffalo Soldiers (A must for the aficionados)
    Lucia St. Clair Robson, Ride The Wind (The Saga of Cynthia Ann Parker)
    Gordon D. Shirreffs (The Mountain Men Saga, Four Vols.)
    Miles Hood Swarthout, The Sergeant’s Lady

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